One of the things we are doing at Tree of Life is building a culture where there is both a high level of inspiration and a high level of challenge.
I have been in a number of churches and conferences which are very inspirational. The messages are designed to help us dream big, to paint a picture of a big God, to show us our potential, to help us see a bright future. The kind of talking that makes you want to change the world.
I love inspiration. I love dreaming big. I love preaching big. But if all you have is inspiration you will not function well. People will always be looking to a future horizon that will never arrive. You will blow up not grow up. You will end up giving hype not hope.
I have also been in a number of churches and conferences which are very challenging. All the preaching is about how we need to change, we need to focus on God, we need to stop behaving a certain way and behave another way. And it’s all true and all good – I don’t care how successful you are, we never reach a point where we have to stop making course corrections, or repenting to use the Biblical word.
I love being challenged. I love stretching myself. I love changing. But if all you have is challenge you will not function well. People will get discouraged making changes if they cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. You will throw up not grow up. You will end up giving people a stone not bread.
You need to learn how to both inspire and challenge people. You also need to learn how to create a culture that inspires and challenges people. You need to learn the balance and rhythm between the two – some weeks you might preach really inspirational, the next week a real challenge. You might get a guest speaker in who is inspirational, the next one might be challenging. You might have a Bible study on an inspirational topic, so the next one might be challenge. You need to learn when the people need the carrot and when they need the stick. You need to pray and get wisdom and flow with this.
Neither inspiration or challenge is enough on its own, but both together produces life changes.
We say it like this at the Tree: we inspire you to dream big, but we challenge you to live the dream too.